Understanding Personal Injury Claims In The UK

Personal injury claims are sometimes seen as something of an arduous task, in large part due to the length of time it can take for a claim to be successful. While many of us are used to instantly getting results and information, claims can seem like a process which drags on for the longest time.

The reality is that personal injury claims have innumerable variables which typically see claims getting settled in a rough six to twelve month timeframe. Why does it take this long, and what variables play a part in determining whether a personal injury claim is successful? Let’s look at some of the areas which affect claims, and why understanding said nuances could help you get a clear idea of what personal injury lawyers do.

Helping establish a claim

So, what does someone in an accident do if they’ve gotten a personal injury? Do they declare they’re going to claim and go straight to court? The simple answer is no. Anyone looking to carry out a personal injury claim needs to meet with a personal injury solicitor whose job it is to analyse what has happened and provide expert legal advice.

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Anyone thinking of starting the claim process should speak with a specialist, as they’ll be able to determine what type of claim is needed and what the chances of success are. The claims process is all-encompassing and has more niches than I could begin to mention here. With personal injuries covering anything from work accidents to hitting potholes, a respected solicitor is going to help establish a claim as they see fit.

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Understanding what a claim encompasses

If you’re familiar with any TV show or movie involving a lawyer, you’ll often hear the phrase “my client is seeking damages”. Damages are the key figure of a claim. How anyone gets to that figure is dependent on two things: special damages and general damages.

Special damages are tangible figures which can be measured, for example, loss of earnings from time off work and expenses related to your care while recovering fall in this remit. General damages are things which cannot be explicitly measured, e.g. pain, mental issues and associated trauma. These two components are used to give a rough figure for damages (we’ll get to how a figure is decided shortly).

Taking responsibility for a claim

Another misconception regarding personal injury claims is that things get heated between the two parties when a claim is made, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Claims have to follow a formal process which typically looks like this:

  • A lawyer/solicitor drafts a formal letter of claim, which details everything and why someone is claiming compensation
  • The letter is sent to the defendant, who then (remember, we’re looking at the UK here) has 21 days to acknowledge receiving the formal letter. They then get three months to find a lawyer/solicitor to look at the claim in detail before deciding whether they will take responsibility, deny parts of the claim, or outright deny responsibility
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Depending on what response is given after those three months, the claim can then proceed, or the prosecuting party will review the denial and suggest appropriate recourse. In cases where the defence accepts responsibility, the party claiming typically then needs to be medically assessed for a medico-legal report which is used in the personal injury claim. This process is usually carried out after the response in case the initial reply denies certain elements which can then be addressed in the medico-legal report.

Getting an appropriate claim

You may be familiar with the term “claim culture” which alludes to the mentality that people will want to claim whenever they can and do so in the hopes of getting as much as possible. The reality is that most claims are not resolved with a heady back or forth or high demands being made. This is the part of the claims process that most people don’t grasp, yet it could be seen as the most pivotal.

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When deciding on a claim, your lawyer will use the evidence (usually medical records) and then assign what they believe to be an appropriate figure. Any reputable lawyer will not be out to get as much money as possible, but a reflective amount (in their experience) of the damage caused.

Without it descending into a barter system where both sides haggle on the amount, it is common for the defence to actively offer a settlement figure first, as a means to show they are acting appropriately and don’t want to take a claim to court. It will only be in instances where that figure is grossly below where your lawyer values your claim that things can end up going to court, but this is usually something both sides will try their hardest to avoid, as it will see costs spiral, with neither party wanting to invest the time.

Always get help

Thanks for reading this brief overview of the personal injury claim process. I hope it wasn’t too overbearing and gave some clarity about what can be a confusing experience.  Just remember that if you ever feel like a claim is warranted, always find reputable advice from a local source.

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